The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"

Trivia: The Fourth Spatial Dimension

Einstein introduced the notion of the fourth dimension as a temporal dimension, but before Einstein there was interest in a fourth spatial dimension. For example, the physicists Balfour Stewart and Peter Tait published "The Unseen Universe" (1875), a textbook that was reprinted more than 20 times, in which the ether is considered a fourth dimension of space.

A spiritual vision of the fourth dimension was born when the astrophysicist Johann Zoellner became convinced of the existence of the fourth spatial dimension after meeting the medium Henry Slade, and wrote "On the Space of Four Dimensions" (1878) in the Quarterly Journal of Science. The mathematician Charles Hinton gave a religious and philosophical interpretation of the fourth dimension in "A New Era of Thought" (1888): as, basically, the realm of God. The theologian Arthur Willink did something similar in "The World of the Unseen" (1893).

Meanwhile, the satirist Edwin Abbott wrote the novel "Flatland" (1884) that imagines a fourth dimension of space and introduced the idea into the art world. The novelist Herbert Wells speculated on the existence of a fourth spatial dimension in his tale "The Remarkable Case of Davidson's Eyes" (1895).

A very important moment in science was the discovery of X-rays. In 1895 Wilhelm Roentgen proved the existence of X-rays, light rays that are invisible to the human eye. It shocked the world of science that there exist something that cannot be seen. Science soon showed that human only see a limited portion of the spectrum of possible frequencies. The chemist William Crookes, a pioneer of vacuum tubes, delivered a lecture "On the Relativity of Human Knowledge" (1897), and the astronomer Camille Flammarion published "The Unknown" (1900). Marie Curie, discussing her discovery of radioactivity in Century Magazine (January 1904, pp. 461-466), wrote: "The discovery of the phenomena of radioactivity adds a new group to the great number of invisible radiations now known, and once more we are forced to recognize how limited is our direct perception of the world which surrounds us, and how numerous and varied may be the phenomena which we pass without a suspicion of their existence until the day when a fortunate hazard reveals them".

The mathematician Henri Poincare' admitted the possibility of a fourth dimension in his philosophical book "Science and Hypothesis" (1902), whose geometric ideas were popularized one year later by Esprit Jouffret's treatise "Elementary Treatise on the Geometry of Four Dimensions" (1903), which greatly influenced the cubists. In fact, it was after 1895 that painters started painting things that don't exist (not only cubists but also futurists, surrealists, etc.)

This new awareness that there exist things that we cannot see had the effect of increasing the belief in a fourth dimension, invisible to the human eye. It energized theosophy, as shown by Charles Leadbeater's "The Other Side of Death - Scientifically Examined and Carefully Described" (1903). The mystic philosopher Pyotr Ouspenskii, a follower of George Gurdjieff, published "The Fourth Dimension" (1909). This book inspired the architect Claude Bragdon's "A Primer of Higher Space" (1913) and the symbolist poet Maurice Maeterlinck's "The Life of Space" (1928). The latter tried in vain to reject Einstein's idea that the fourth dimension was temporal: Arthur Eddington had delivered the first experimental test of general relativity during the solar eclipse of 1919, and it became a dogma that the fourth dimension is time, not space. The idea of a fourth spatial dimension was abandoned. until 1984, the seminal year in which (independently) the sci-fi novelist William Gibson popularized the dimension of "cyberspace", Michael Green and John Schwarz established superstring theory (with its ten spatial dimensions) as the dominant paradigm of quantum physics, and the mathematician Rudy Rucker published "The Fourth Dimension". And, to be fair, the 1984 renaissance came one year after the art historian Linda Henderson published "The Fourth Dimension and Non-Euclidean Geometry in Modern Art" (1983).

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